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“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” is a line made famous by the portly character, ‘Wimpy,’ in the comic strip, ‘Popeye.’ But the funny part is not that payment be deferred, but the understanding that payment will never be forthcoming.

This is not unlike Mason County Commissioners, who apparently think the county operates on a free lunch basis. But the real problem is as simple as the solution is painful: expenses outpace revenues by two to one, and with no feasible plan to address shortfalls, it’s more politically advantageous to make the budget look better than it is to take the unpopular steps needed to actually make it better. So, much like Mr. Wimpy, costs are kicked down the road for others to worry about.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Consider the following: In 2018, a group of five fiscally conservative citizens signed up to serve on the Mason County Citizen Advisory Budget Committee to learn about local government operations, funding options, and to make recommendations to the commissioners. At the end of five months, the committee unanimously recommended the county place a sales tax increase proposal on the ballot to generate additional revenue. I attended some of those meetings, and I can tell you without reservation, I thought there was a better chance my dead grandmother would take up skydiving than for these five fiscally conservative citizens voting to raise taxes, but there you go. All of which proves that people are reasonable when they know all the facts.

Of course, if these same folks had known that the county was going to waste money on fish culverts where there’s no fish, buy old buildings that need costly renovations and favor special interest groups at the expense of ordinary taxpayers, they might not have been so reasonable.

So, next time you hear a commissioner say, “The trouble with government is it needs to live within its means” while at the same time hemorrhaging public money on wasteful projects, think of our old friend Mr. Wimpy, because sooner than later someone is going to have to pay for all those free lunches.   


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(5) comments

Shelley George

When discussing the culvert issues maybe people should review the timeline of US v. WA. Regardless if there are no fish now. If there was a historic records of fish in the that water way then the culverts do need to be repaired. This has been a long going issues with the twenty-one treaty tribes of W. WA and the state. It has gone as far as highest courts and still it is up to state govt to fix the culverts.

Tom Davis

Thanks Shelley. Just to be clear; my comments were aimed at the necessity of replacing the Highland Rd. culvert, only, not the State or Federal policies surrounding fish bearing streams, which this was not. Also, time and again I have watched our county commissioners question mandates, restrictions, designations, even duly adopted laws imposed by higher authority, but none of that happened here. No matter how you couch it, this was an entirely avoidable waste of taxpayer money.

Tee Breeze

Tom, I agree that our County Commissioners need to spend within their means, I believe your fish culvert example is a red herring of it's own. I spent time serving on the citizens advisory board of our Public Works and was very impressed with our county's public works department. They maintain 620 miles of county roads, 64 bridges and 3,300, 75 of which are designated as fish barrier culverts. The state laws currently on the books require that these culverts must be replaced by the county to meet state salmon laws and the cost of the new culverts is much higher. The county's hand are tied. If you want to see wild spending increases look no further than the Sheriff's office. Graph their budget over a ten year timeline and prepare to be shocked.

Tom Davis

Tee-

It seems your comment centers around what you perceive to be my criticism of Mason County Public Works, which it is not. The culvert replacement you describe as a “red herring” (love the fishy connection) is a prime example of a wasteful “legacy project,” the result of revolving door Project Engineers (which will happen again on January 24th). Please don’t tell me the commissioner’s hands were tied; the project could have been reevaluated at any time, but they opted for the ‘free money’ and got caught up in a net of their own making. Now, if you want to talk about the Sheriff’s budget, you’re going to have to bring the beer.

Lee Fraser

It''s pretty obvious the Sheriff's department needs more money. After all, some fool with his jail pants around his ankles outran the deputies in the courthouse. So we obviously need something more to prevent another occurance like that. I think we need more than beer. some good hard liquor is in order.

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